Bean Sprouts Salad with Egg Garnish

Most importantly, do not try this salad with canned or ersatz bean sprouts!

Most of us recognize bean sprouts from trips to Chinese grocery stores or the local supermarket. These are sprouts of Mung Bean, a type of small green bean.   Joyce Chen,  the source of much of our household wisdom when it comes to Chinese cooking, specifies using fresh bean sprouts,  writing in the Joyce Chen Cook Book: "If you compare . . ., you will know why I do not recommend the canned bean sprouts.":  She was so opposed to resorting to the canned version, she recommended shredding the white thick part of lettuce as a substitute rather than resorting to canned sprouts.

In the dish below, be sure to have fresh sprouts handy.  Ersatz sprouts are okay in small amounts, but bits of shredded lettuce will not do when you are contemplating a salad calling for a pound of sprouts.  (If you would like directions for growing bean sprouts at home, just email the editor of this site by clicking on the @ symbol -- see the bottom, left-hand corner of this page.  A flower pot and some seeds will set you up rather well.)

Two other basic oriental  ingredients are used in this recipe -- soy sauce and sesame oil.  Soy sauce is readily available.  Brands vary and subtleties abound. We recommend using your favorite soy sauce, even a low-sodium version if you are limiting salt intake
Sesame Seed Oil
is light, golden brown, made of toasted white sesame seeds.  It is used like salad oil, not for cooking, since this oil burns more easily than others available to most cooks.  Beware:  there is a variation of Sesame Seed Oil designated as Hot Sesame Oil, which is zipped up with hot, red pepper seeds.  It is not suitable for the delicate nature of bean sprout salad.  Both oils are handy to have in your pantry, analogous to sweet and hot paprika..  


1 pound raw bean sprouts
Add the bean sprouts to a large pot holding 10 cups or more of boiling water over high heat. Before the water boils again, remove pan from heat and pour and drain the bean sprouts with boiling water in a colander. To retain the crisp and sweet taste of bean sprouts, the bean sprouts should be removed before water boils again and cooled immediately and thoroughly  This is crucial to the success of this recipe.   Soak (or rinse evenly) the bean sprouts in cold water until thoroughly cold.  Drain very well.

The original recipe from Joyce Chen recommends putting the drained bean sprouts in a large salad bowl and add the egg garnish on the top. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to serve. When it is time to serve, mix in the soy sauce mixture.  I do this differently.  Prepare, quick cook, drain and chill, the bean sprouts and put them in the refrigerator.  Then, just before ready to serve, quickly cook the egg garnish; cut into strips.
Prepare the egg garnish –

2 eggs
teaspoon salt
teaspoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons oil*

Beat eggs with salt and dry sherry.  (Omit the M.S. G., which was included in the original sixties version of this salad; do not be afraid to add one-half teaspoon salt.)
Put 1 teaspoon oil in hot skillet over medium heat.  Spread it evenly with a small piece of kitchen paper towel.  Pour in half of beaten egg, tipping skillet around so a thin layer barely covers the bottom.  Cook until the edge is lightly browned and lifts out of the bottom (less than a minute).  Remove to cutting board.  Cut into four even strips.  Pile the strips into layers and cut into very fine slivers.  Using the remaining oil, cook the rest of the eg in the same way.  This makes a nice garnish for salads, soups, and other dishes.
 *If the skillet is not well seasoned and the egg mixture sticks to the bottom, use a little more oil; but too much oil will not make a thin layer.

Bean sprout dressing:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil 

Mix soy sauce and sesame seed in a bowl and set aside.**
(In my house, we keep a small bottle of dressing at the ready and can have this dressing at a moment's notice.  Of course, mixing the two ingredients,  the soy sauce and oil, is a no-brainer, even at the last minute,  but, since I prefer to pass this dressing separately to each diner, I like having an attractive, small flask at hand.)

Serving the salad:

Serve by providing each guest with a small bowl of well chilled sprouts, pass the dressing, being sure to recommend using a very small amount, then pass the garnish for each to choose (or not) a few strips to add to the salad.

This recipe has been kitchen tested.

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